Posted on: April 2, 2008 11:15 pm

Tight leash in the coaching box

Base coaches who thought the enforcement of a helmet rule would be their biggest impediment this season are quickly finding out otherwise.

Major league baseball this season has tightened the parameters regarding where coaches can roam in an attempt to keep them safe. And the inconvenience already is rippling through the game.

Not only did Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa receive a three-game suspension Wednesday after his volcanic eruption a night earlier but, a couple of hours south, the San Diego Padres say the enforcement of the little-known rule potentially cost them a run in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Houston.

The issue for both Bowa and Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman on Tuesday was this: With a runner on second base, third-base coaches normally shade down the third-base line toward home plate, so that when the runner on second rounds third, he can easily pick up the coach.

But baseball sent a memo to clubs and umpires this spring notifying them that coaches are expected to remain in the box. It's tied to the helmet rule, which the game's general managers and rules committee installed after Scott Coolbaugh, then coaching first base, was killed by a line drive in a minor-league game last summer.

In the Padres' game, Hoffman, carefully remaining in the box to comply with the rules, attempted to stop Hairston at third on Paul McAnulty's ground ball to shortstop. But when Hairston rounded third, he was already past Hoffman and didn't see the stop sign. Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada alertly threw behind the runner to third, and Hairston was tagged out.

Now, here's where the coaching-box rule became even more chaotic in San Diego: Turns out, in an attempt to preserve the grass, Padres groundskeepers periodically move the third-base box slightly up and down the line. Its positioning Tuesday was too far toward left-field -- the home-plate side of the third-base box was even with the third-base bag, and it extended toward left field. Which is why Hairston never saw Hoffman.

So 30 minutes before Wednesday's Padres-Astros game, Petco Park groundskeepers were redrawing the lines and extending the third-base box several feet to the home-plate side of third base -- where it's supposed to be.

"The idea is that the coaches are not supposed to be any closer to home plate than the near side of the box as a player bats," said Padres president Sandy Alderson, a member of baseball's rules committee. "But the rules don't require that he stay in the box."

According to the rules -- rules that obviously will be enforced this year -- a coach can move out of the box and go up or down the line once the ball is put in play and the ball moves past the coach.

"The whole idea is safety," Alderson said.

That's what got Bowa into a pickle Tuesday evening. Third-base ump Ed Montague told Bowa he was straying too far from the box, Bowa ignored him, and finally, with a Dodger on second and Bowa just about halfway between third and home, Montague warned him one final time.

It's been a tough year already for Bowa, who bitterly complained about the helmet rule this spring.

"The helmets are ridiculous," Alderson said. "They don't provide protection. If they were provided with the same helmets batters and baserunners have worn for the past 20 years, it would be one thing. If they're going to wear helmets, they should wear the helmets with the ear flaps."

Alderson said he did not see replays of the Bowa explosion, and he did have a question.

"Did he throw his helmet?" Alderson quipped.

Posted on: April 1, 2008 6:26 pm

Pass the Maalox and somebody finish the game

Morning has barely broken on the new season, and already it's Maalox time for managers.

With two openers yet to be completed, there already have been seven blown saves on opening day. That ties an opening day record, according to Since saves became an official statistic in 1969, only one other time has there been as many as seven blown saves on opening day, and that was in 1994.

Contributing to this historic occasion already are Oakland's Huston Street (March 25 against Boston in Japan), Boston's Kyle Snyder (same game against the A's), Washington's Jon Rauch (Sunday night against the Braves) Cleveland's Rafael Perez, Detroit's Jason Grilli, Kansas City's Brett Tomko and Milwaukee's Eric Gagne (all Monday).

And that's not even counting the Cubs' Kerry Wood, who blew up the 0-0 game in Wrigley Field against Milwaukee on Monday by surrendering three top-of-the-ninth runs. And it's not counting Atlanta's Peter Moylan, who served up Sunday night's bottom-of-the-ninth homer to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman to deal the Braves, who had been tied 2-2, a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

The three most eyebrow-raising blown games within that group were authored by Gagne, Street and Wood -- for different reasons.

Let's start with Wood, because while that didn't go down as a blown save, it certainly ruined a what should have been a memorable opener featuring the Cubs' newest folk hero, Kosuke Fukudome. For the sake of both the Cubs and manager Lou Piniella, the days of Wood raising the club's hopes and then tossing a banana peel under them must be finished. The Cubs think they're finished. Wood pitched very well in relief late last season and had a very good spring. His final spring test was pitching on consecutive days and working three times in a five-day stretch, both of which he aced.

The biggest question with Wood is whether he stays healthy, and for now, that was answered during the spring. The club believes he will be very successful as a closer. Piniella indicated this spring that set-up man Carlos Marmol would be used as a closer in the event Wood didn't work. But that weakens the club in the seventh and eighth innings.

It's always a mistake to place too much emphasis on one game -- especially if it's opening day, which usually gets an inordinate amount of attention (and, when the cold, raw conditions that were in Chicago make it difficult for a pitcher to grip a baseball). But let's just say this: Wood had better convert his next few save opportunities, or it's going to be panic time in Chicago.

Is it time to panic in Milwaukee with Gagne? I had a long talk with manager Ned Yost about that late this spring as the Brewers were keeping Gagne hidden away on the back fields. And in the couple of 'A' games he did pitch, he looked nothing like his old Cy Young-winning self.

Gagne went 2-0 with 16 saves and a 2.16 ERA in 34 games for Texas last summer before Boston traded for him for the stretch run. Working as a set-up man (and eventually mop-up man) for Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, Gagne was 2-2 with an alarming 6.75 ERA and no saves in 20 games.

Yost said this spring that he is going with Gagne's Texas stats last summer and completely discounting the Boston performance because: A) As a closer, Gagne is a different breed; B) He wasn't closing in Boston, and, C) Therefore, he didn't have the adrenalin and situations he needed.

That works in theory. But here's the reason why I'm concerned if I'm Milwaukee (which is paying him $10 million in 2008): No, Gagne wasn't closing in Boston. But while he regularly was getting lit up and booed out of Fenway Park, you would think a self-preservation mechanism would have kicked in that would have given Gagne the adrenalin he needed. He never could find it. Nor has he been able to find his old fastball. Where he once jacked it up to 98, 99 m.p.h. in his heyday in Los Angeles, now Gagne's fastball tops out at 92, 93. And there's all kinds of suspicion as to why. You can start by finding his name in the Mitchell Report.

Street probably won't be under as intense a spotlight as Gagne and Wood this season simply because Oakland isn't expected to be in contention. But scouts who saw him in the Cactus League this spring were buzzing about how poorly he threw. There's no indentifiable reason yet but, at this point, it seems clear that something could be up with Street. A hidden injury? A simple slow start? Stay tuned.

And, stay tuned Tuesday night. Mariano Rivera (Yankees) and Jeremy Accardo (Toronto), and Jason Isringhausen (St. Louis) and Manny Corpas (Colorado), you're up.

Two more openers yet to be competed. And an opening day blown saves record clearly within reach.

Posted on: March 31, 2008 9:54 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2008 11:52 am

Westward ho

LOS ANGELES -- Get ready for a season of memories as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants celebrate their 50th seasons of serving as the trailblazers in baseball's westward expansion. And if the opening day pre-game ceremony staged by the Dodgers serves as any kind of preview, it's going to be some kind of fun.

Sandy Koufax, Carl Erskine and Don Newcombe each threw out ceremonial first pitches Monday after the emotional introductions of nearly 40 former Dodgers. Most of the former players all came onto the field in full uniform and stood where their old positions were. There was Maury Wills at shortstop, Duke Snider in Ccenter field, Ron Cey at third, Steve Garvey at first ... it was the brainchild of Dr. Charles Steinberg, the new Dodgers vice-president of marketing and communications, and it was trademark Dr. C all the way. He staged similar impressive celebrations in Baltimore and Boston.

"It was really cool," new Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "The Dodgers and the Yankees have the histories to be able to do something like that because of their histories of championships.

"I just wish Don Zimmer would have been here. That would have closed the circle for me."

Zimmer, now a special coach for Tampa Bay, was Torre's bench coach for several seasons with the Yankees. Torre said that rarely a day went by when Zim wouldn't mention Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese or some Dodgers-related anecdote in the dugout.

Though Torre grew up in New York, he said that the Dodgers and Giants leaving after the 1957 season affected him in a way far different from other New Yorkers. His brother, Frank, had just broken into the majors with the Milwaukee Braves, and the departures of the Giants and Dodgers meant that Joe would have to take a train to see his brother play. He no longer would be able to see Frank play in New York once the city lost its National League teams.

Being that it was his first game in a Dodgers uniform, Torre said he felt like a bit of an outsider.

"You sort of feel like a duck out of water because you're not a part of Dodgers history," he said. "It was the same way with the Yankees. I'd see Catfish Hunter, Whitey (Ford), Yogi (Berra) and you felt like you weren't a part of it. It wasn't until after six or seven years that you felt like you were a part of it."

The World Series titles Torre managed the Yankees to in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 just might have been a bit beneficial in making him feel a part of it, too.

Monday, Torre caught the first pitch from Newcombe. He was hoping to catch Koufax's, but it was difficult to say whether it was more because of his friendship with Koufax or more because he has a Los Angeles-themed line he was going to use.

"I was going to tell him it was easier catching him here than trying to hit him here," Torre said, chuckling.

Likes: The new Nationals Park looked beautiful on television the other night, didn't it? Can't wait to get there and see it -- hopefully this year sometime. ... As one media-type cracked here Monday, it should be fairly easy to get to D.C. to see it -- just schedule it in the next time Congress hauls in a few ballplayers for more testimony. ... The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome, 3-for-3 with a homer in his debut. Nice. ... Life just feels different on opening day, doesn't it? ... Love seeing kids like the Dodgers' Blake Dewitt play well in their first major-league game. ... Pretty great Cleveland-White Sox game Monday. ... Four No. 1 seeds in Saturday's Final Four, I've already got a request in for pizza and I ain't going far from the television. ... Two Bruce Springsteen concerts coming up in the next seven days. Opening day, Final Four, Springsteen ... this year may be peaking right now.

Dislikes: Both Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne give up three runs in the ninth inning Monday? Mamma mia. ... The Field Formerly Known as Jacobs having a new name in Cleveland. ... Rainout in Yankee Stadium and raw weather in Chicago. Shouldn't it be nice everywhere on opening day?

Rock-n-Roll Lyric of the Day:

"All the leaves are brown
"And the sky is gray
"I've been for a walk
"On a winters day
"I'd be safe and warm
"If I was in L.A.
"California dreamin'
"On such a winters day"

-- The Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin'


Posted on: March 29, 2008 6:50 pm

Big game hunting on opening day

One of the most attractive opening day pitching matchups has Houston ace Roy Oswalt facing National League Cy Young winner Jake Peavy in San Diego on Monday night.

Well, it's one of the attractive matchups if you're not, say, a white-tailed deer.

The two pals have been pointing toward their opening day duel for months now, trash-talking their way through winter hunting trips and the joint purchase of more than 500 acres of hunting property in southwestern Illinois.

"Some of the best hunting land in the United States," Oswalt told me this spring.

Oswalt is from Weir, Mississippi; Peavy is a native of Mobile, Alabama. They live about two hours' drive-time apart.

Not only did they purchase the Illinois property over the winter, they also enjoyed a home-and-home series of hunting trips together.

Peavy and some of his friends traveled to Mississippi to hunt with Oswalt on the Houston pitcher's 3,000-acre property, and then Oswalt and some of his friends visited Peavy's hunting spread in Alabama.

Funny thing is, neither Oswalt (14-7 with a 3.18 last season) nor Peavy (19-6, 2.54) personally bagged anything on their joint hunting trips, according to the Houston pitcher. The group shot three deer on Oswalt's property and "two or three" on Peavy's property.

But that didn't stop the two buddies from carrying on with their running commentary on Monday's opener for the past several months.

"We've got a lot of bets going on," Oswalt told me, grinning, at the Astros' camp in Kissimmee, Fla., in February. "I can't say what we've got going on, but we've been talking a lot of trash on the phone."

When I saw Peavy in Peoria, Ariz., a few weeks later, last year's unanimous Cy Young winner wasn't spilling any beans regarding the side wagers, either.

"We're going to get after it on opening day," Peavy said. "And then we'll go to dinner when all is said and done."

Venison? He didn't say.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 27, 2008 1:37 pm

Get well soon, Preston

Through one of those odd, quirky occurrences that can happen only around the ballpark, one week ago, I sat next to Preston Gomez in the Phoenix Municipal Stadium press box.

The Athletics were hosting the Los Angeles Angels and Gomez, the baseball lifer and one-time manager of the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, now is a special assistant to Angels general manager Tony Reagins. I don't know why he wound up in the front row of the press box that day -- other than it was crowded and he probably took the last chair -- but, just before first pitch, as I plopped down in front of my laptop, he turned, stuck out his hand, smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Preston."

I had never met him before, and this courtly and genteel gesture struck me immediately as one inherent in his generation that, sadly, has been lost on ours.

It was one of the nicest moments of my spring, and a chill ran right through me Wednesday when I heard Gomez, 84, had been hit by a pickup truck at a gas station while driving home from spring training and is in critical condition.

It never gets old in this business, having the privilege of meeting so many baseball old-timers. And the not knowing when and where keeps you on your toes and can turn what otherwise would be a mundane day interesting.

The classic Gomez story, of course, came in 1970, when he was managing the Padres and he sent a pinch-hitter to the plate for pitcher Clay Kirby in the eighth inning with the Padres trailing the New York Mets 1-0. The kicker: Kirby was pitching a no-hitter at the time.

I briefly thought of asking Gomez about it last week in that press box, but I didn't. I figured he'd probably explained it 1,000 times -- he was simply trying to win a game, and in this old-school guy's eyes, the individual took a back seat to the team -- and besides, I was buried in work. I had a column to write, preview stories to work on ... you know. No matter what job we have, sometimes we keep our head down plowing through it and either don't have the time or don't take the time to enjoy the small moments.

After introducing himself, he was very careful to make sure to get my name, going so far as to read it on my media credential to make sure he had it correctly. We exchanged pleasantries -- what a beautiful day it was, how great the spring always is --then I went back to writing and he went back to scouting.

About midway through the game, someone fouled a pitch up toward us that landed in the stands about five or six rows beneath the press box and we exchanged smiles.

"You've got me covered, right, Preston?" I kidded. "Someone scorches a ball into the press box toward this computer, I'm going to let you catch it."

He laughed, eyes twinkling, and said he didn't know whether he could move so fast anymore.

Not long after, my friend Pedro Gomez, the ESPN broadcaster whom I've known since we covered high school sports together in the 1980s, came by to visit with Preston. They're both Cuban, and they chattered away in Spanish for awhile, and once they got back to English, Pedro asked whether I knew he and Preston shared the same name.

Turns out, Preston's given name is Pedro. I quickly told ESPN Pedro that maybe they shared the same name, but it was obvious which Pedro Gomez got the better end of the looks. And it wasn't the TV star.

We all laughed again, and it was real easy to see why Preston Gomez not only remains a respected baseball man, but beloved in the Angels organization. What a gentle, kind and knowledgeable man.

I'm back home writing now, finishing up that 2008 season preview stuff. And while I am, I can't get my mind off of the sudden and horrible twist of fate, Preston now laying in that hospital bed fighting for his life.

What a treasure that afternoon last week was, and how quickly things change.

Here's a prayer for Preston's full recovery, and for the rest of us to have the wisdom to recognize those moments when life hands you a gift, and to take advantage of them.



Category: MLB
Posted on: March 23, 2008 3:58 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2008 8:39 pm

Cabrera deal for the Tigers? Grrrrreat!

Turns out, Miguel Cabrera not only cost Detroit half of its farm system (almost) in this winter's monster deal with Florida, but also a good percentage of owner Mike Ilitch's Little Caesars pizza money to keep him wearing the Olde English D for the next eight years.

So, is Cabrera worth it?

Heck, yes. By all means. Mark this down as a great day for the Tigers: They didn't even have to annex Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or sell the Ambassador Bridge, to pay Cabrera's freight.

It took a lot of (pizza) dough -- $152.3 million over eight years -- but this is the gift that will keep on giving. Cabrera is only 24 (he turns 25 in on April 18), the numbers from his first five seasons in the majors compare favorably to those of Hank Aaron and if he continues at this pace, he's a definite Hall of Famer.

And from what we've seen this spring, there is every reason to believe that Cabrera will continue produce at this level -- or even higher.

What I saw this spring when I was with the Tigers in Lakeland was a new man, which should be scary news for American League pitchers. Remember how tumultuous last season was at times in Florida with Cabrera, when he was overweight and developed a reputation for periodic loafing?

Yes, it's only spring and yes, things could change, but those days seem long gone.

For one thing, you should see Cabrera now: He changed his workout regimen and his diet beginning immedately after last season, and his body is so much leaner now. Plus, there's no question he's in a better situation, and I think that will help him in every area -- starting upstairs, mentally.

Surrounded by Detroit's productive veterans -- especially countryman Carlos Guillen -- Cabrera has veterans to show him the way professionals do things, and to get after him if he takes a mental day off.

Playing for manager Jim Leyland, he will learn and grow under one of the finest minds in the game -- and from a gruff, no-nonsense manager who commands respect and will not tolerate players going through the motions.

In short, as Cabrera reaches the next level financially, he's surrounded by people who will continue to push him to the next level of greatness, and not let him settle. We already know he has the talent.

Only three players will command an average annual salary larger than Cabrera's $19,037,500 this season: The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, the Mets' Johan Santana and Boston's Manny Ramirez.

With Ramirez in the heart of their order, Boston has racked up two World Series wins in the past four seasons.

With A-Rod, the Yankees haven't won, but they've played in October each year he's been there.

Ramirez, now 36, is about to enter his twilight. A-Rod, 32, is in his prime.

Cabrera, based on his age, may not yet even be in his prime.

Considering that he hit .320 with 34 RBI and 119 RBI for the Marlins last season, he's got a realistic chance at becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967, when Boston's Carl Yastrzemski did it.

He also helps put Detroit in position to win its first World Series since 1984 -- perhaps even as soon as this year.

That'll be a large with everything, please.




Posted on: March 22, 2008 6:52 pm

Piniella sets lineup; Santo sets autograph limits

MESA, Ariz. -- It's settled -- at least, as settled as a Lou Piniella lineup ever is.

Newcomer Kosuke Fukudome will bat fifth, Piniella proclaimed on Saturday after several days of tinkering with and pondering his lineup. Shortstop Ryan Theriot will be the Cubs' leadoff man, former leadoff man Alfonso Soriano will bat second, followed by first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Fukudome, second baseman Mark DeRosa, catcher Geovany Sota and center fielder Felix Pie.

At least, unless the Cubs trade for Brian Roberts, Jay Payton, Coco Crisp or anybody else in the next week.

"Right now, the way we're situated, Fukudome offers the best protection to Ramirez," Piniella says. "I know the two-hole is probably more suitable for the young man, but right now, the way we're put together, I feel Ramirez has more protection with Fukudome behind him.

"I talked to my coaches, and they feel the same way. So we're going to start this way."

Piniella juggled his lineup all season last summer but would prefer not to do that this year. Having a better handle on things entering his second season in Chicago and with better players in place -- the emergence of Theriot, the addition of Fukudome -- he should be able to accomplish that. Though he is notoriously impatient.

"We're going to be more prone to a set lineup," Piniella says. "I said we'd play around during spring training, see some things. The problem is, if something's not working, I get paid to find solutions. Then you've got to tinker some.

"But I'd prefer to stay as constant as possible."

Saturday was a gorgeous day at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, with a packed house for a spring game between the Cubs and White Sox. I spent some time in the Cubs' radio booth talking with Ron Santo about 45 minutes before game time, and it was quite a sight. You can walk up to the press box windows from the stands at HoHoKam, and a steady stream of autograph seekers lined up to get Santo's signature.

In 10 minutes I saw him sign baseballs, tickets, programs, a large white sneaker with a Cubs' logo, a baseball key chain, caps and many other items. One woman simply handed him a cell phone and asked him to say hello to her mother. Actually, it was more like she told Santo to say hello. It would have been incredibly awkward had he declined, but he didn't miss a beat.

"Hello, Rose," he said. "I wanted to say hello to you."

The only thing I saw Santo decline was a girl who asked him to sign her arm. He was gracious, but essentially said he doesn't sign body parts. I'm not kidding -- it was like Mick Jagger or Keith Richards or something. People love their Cubs.

"People have asked us to leave outgoing messages on their answering machines," says Pat Hughes, Santo's partner in the booth. "All in a day's work."

Likes: Ron Santo is just the sweetest man. He and broadcast partner Pat Hughes are terrific people, pleasures to be around. ... A couple of Cubs folks keeping watch over manager Lou Piniella as he met with the media Saturday on the field, perched precariously close to the steps of the Cubs dugout. Piniella is a notorious rocker as he talks, sometimes disarming people by leaning back and then taking a couple of steps backwards. Fortunately, no tumbles into the dugout Saturday. ... That game-winner by the Western Kentucky kid against Drake on Friday was the shot of the NCAA tournament, huh? What a great, great play. And I felt terrible for the poor Drake kids. ... When it comes to takeout pizza, give me Papa John's. Had that and worked in the room Friday night watching the NCAA games, and that's as fine a night as there is. ... My friend Ollie called to check in the other day after the Bull Pennings blog about Felix Pie's twisted testicle and reminded me that he did not have to have surgery, it healed on its own. ... Happy Easter.

Dislikes: Getting close to the time when I've got to turn in that Pontiac Solstice convertible I've been driving around here in Arizona. Fun, fun car.

Sunblock day? Heck yes. Temperatures into the upper 80s, where they're supposed to remain on Easter and the rest of this week.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"There's a cut upon my brow
"Must have banged myself somehow
"But I can't remember now
"And the front door's open wide
"Lately I've let things slide"

-- Nick Lowe, Lately I've Let Things Slide

Posted on: March 21, 2008 5:50 pm

Barry Bonds and baseball's unemployment rate

PHOENIX -- One of the headlines to emerge from the baseball world the other day -- albeit a small headline -- was that players' union boss Don Fehr intends to look into whether baseball owners are in collusion to prevent Barry Bonds from playing this season.

Fehr quickly said it was a non-story, noting that the union reviews free agent activity every season and that he wouldn't necessarily zero in on a Bonds investigation.

Which is only the latest indication that, despite the Big Man saying he wants to play in 2008, nobody's listening.

Even as the game's all-time home run king, it really isn't all that mysterious that Bonds remains jobless. First of all, he's toxic because of his legal issues. Second, he's strictly designated hitter material now -- he was a huge liability in left field for the Giants last summer -- so that eliminates 16 of the 30 big-league clubs right there.

And of the 14 American League clubs, most of them are set at DH. I count five, maybe six AL clubs who possibly could be upgraded by Bonds' bat: Seattle (Jose Vidro is the current designated hitter), Texas (Frank Catalanotto), Baltimore (Aubrey Huff, who might be traded), Tampa Bay (Johnny Gomes, who could move to another position), Kansas City (Ross Gload) and Minnesota (Jason Kubel).

Of those, a handful are small-market clubs who probably aren't going to pay Bonds anything near what he wants.

And for the very small handful of clubs for whom Bonds might, maybe, in a pinch, possibly make sense ... is it really worth it to bring in a guy whose legal future is murky? A guy who essentially has demanded his own set of rules apart from the rest of the team? A guy who is a lightening rod for bad publicity?

"He can't play for me," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said the other day. "First of all, I already have a DH (Jim Thome). Second of all, my ballclub goes by the rules, all 25 guys. I don't know him, but he's got hiw own way. I respect that. He's the best player ever to play the game. But it's a different style.

"It's surprised me (that Bonds is unsigned) because a lot of teams need a leader like him. Maybe people don't want the aggravation of talking about him every day."

Likes: Closer Brad Lidge back in Philadelphia. ... The Washington Nationals deciding to go with their talented young pitching. Yes, it was shocking to see last year's openind day starter, John Patterson, handed his walking papers, but the injuries and rehabbing are endless. The game stops for no one, and the Nationals owe it to their players and fans to go with starting pitchers who can take the ball every day. Especially with Shawn Hill's status uncertain. John Lannan and Matt Chico are going to be good. ... Dodgers broadcaster and former big leaguer Rick Monday. Pure class. ... Honey Bear's barbecue in Phoenix. Terrific ribs, and a great motto: "You don't need no teeth to eat our meat." Plus, you've gotta like a barbecue joint with a sign out front warning that there are no weapons allowed on the premesis unless the holder is a police officer. ... The first two days of the NCAA tournament, with games going for 12 hours. ... The rocking Taco Bell cheesy something-or-other commercial with the Modern English song Melt With You. Good song, and who wouldn't like melted cheese overmeat? ... Organist Danny Federici, on the disabled list with melanoma, re-joining Bruce Springsteen's E St. Band in Indianapolis on Thursday night. Here's to continued good health. ...

Dislikes: Opening day in Japan. I'm all for growing the game and doing everything to ensure its future viability, but opening day is special and should be special for home fans. Red Sox fans will have to watch the two games Tuesday and Wednesday at 6 a.m. Oakland fans get the games at 3 a.m. They're taking one of the most sacred days of the year away from people who deserve to have it.

Sunblock day? Yessir. It's warming up in the desert, zooming up into the 80s. Easter Sunday is supposed to be in the upper-80s.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Oh a storm is threatening my very life today
"If I don't get some shelter
"Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
"War, children, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away"

-- The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or